Posted by: Jack | June 2, 2008

Japan approves militarisation of space programme

Japan from space

The Japanese House of Councillors has just approved a bill allowing the Japanese space programme to be used for military purposes.

In line with the pacifist clauses that were written into the Japanese constitution after the war, since 1969 Japan has legally banned military use of space. However, this has now been overturned by a 221 to 14 vote.

In the immediate term it will allow Japan to build more spy satellites and take part in the US missile shield project actively. The Japanese Defence Minister will also join the government taskforce on future space projects.

The Japanese constitution, which was virtually imposed by the US during their occupation following the war, Japan is banned from offensive military action. However, as a key US ally in East Asia, it has still been allowed up to build up a big military, and in recent years took part in imperialist operations in Afghanistan.

Japanese right wingers are pushing for the military to be allowed to take a more active imperialist role, and the new moves about the space programme have to be seen in that context.

Japan and China have been engaged in a space race of sorts, after China put its first man in space and both China and Japan have had ambitious probes launched to study the moon.

Both countries know how dependent the US military domination of the globe is on satellite guidance of its missiles and forces. They also know the US stated aim of “full spectrum dominance” of the globe includes control of Earth’s orbit and the moon, and through them the ground below.

In the longer term the huge industrialisation process taking place in China is helping to use up the world’s supplies of many basic materials required for modern technology. (I’m going to do a separate post on this in a bit.) Mining of near Earth asteroids and other space based sources of raw materials could become a real necessity if their expansion continues at current pace.

Joint European Torus experimental fusion reactor

And in the even longer term, if scientists do ever develop nuclear fusion technology one of the key fuel sources may be the Helium-3 isotope. This isn’t found on Earth but is available in abundance on the moon, making it a potential frontline in future resource wars.

Japan’s moves to militarise its space programme need to be seen in this context. Like the rest of the world’s powers it recognises the precarious ecological position of the world and the massive depletion of natural resources and the need to position itself for the struggles over access.

Many see the move as a response to the Chinese space weapons test last year where China used a ground based ballistic missile to destroy one of its own weather satellites. It was a clear message to the US satellite-military system, but it also dramatically increased the amount of dangerous junk there is in orbit.

The more debris left by satellites and space missions there is in orbit the more will collide with other pieces. At the colossal speeds objects travel in orbit this leads to them breaking up and creating more.

This points to one reason we should be extremely concerned about the militarisation of space (aside from the obvious). It’s hypothesised that it could reach a critical point at which the Earth would be surrounded by a belt of orbiting junk that could make it unsafe to try and reach orbit.

This makes it all the more important that people in all the leading powers of the world oppose their government’s attempts to extend their military rivalries beyond the Earth. Space must be explored in peace.

And for any country to try and lay claim to space based resources is blatantly absurd. In space there are no nations and all resources that are found and exploited there should be under the common ownership of all humanity.

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